A Momentous Question.
The "universal Yankee nation" has, in general, considered itself equal to any task which interest or inclination seemed to prompt. It mattered little what it was — a Pacific railroad, a war with England, the conquest of Mexico, the Monroe doctrine, the Atlantic telegraph, war with the Algerines, Indians, or "Secesh;" diplomacy, money-making or spending, the proper treatment of Princes and distinguished foreigners, or anything that would pay, even in the most remote sense — not excepting the building of pyramids — which it has been said George Law would put up in three months by contract — would be attempted by Americans and carried out successfully. And still there is one thing which many people claim we cannot do, and which it is true to say that, until recently, the great majority have appeared to consider as almost beyond the bounds of possibility. And that mighty work is — how to dispose of vagrant negroes!
Let an American of only average intelligence go abroad, and after being shown the great fortifications of England or Russia, the wondrous architecture of Italy, or the astonishing remains of antiquity in Egypt, and then be told tauntingly, "Your country can produce nothing so grand as all this," and how soon he would resent the imputation. — He would say that the exigency would bring forth the fortifications, and the armies also, as well as the architecture; and that as for the temples and pyramids of Egypt we have better business in hand, but we can surpass them at any time when the "consideration" is furnished. And it would be true. But lo! When we come down to the subject of slavery, we are told everyday in the year — "It is too great a question; you cannot manage it; you must wait God's own good time, and He will open the way, strike off the bondman's chains and rid our country of its greatest curse." And we have gone on believing it, groaning under our burdens and now are sending forth our sons and brothers as sacrifices to the Moloch of war, piling up a great national burden, and still act as if we thought the proper care of vagrant Negroes was a question too great for our progressive age.
"If you free the niggers what will you do with them?" says the mourning Democrat whose office-hunting is disturbed by the secession schemes of his Southern brethren. "We don't want them here," says the weak-spined, weak-minded, empty-headed politician who conscienciously believes that "whatever is is right," and trembles at the ghost of "nigger equality." True enough, timid friend; we don't desperately need you, and every town and city has plenty worse than you, to get rid of whom would be a blessing. We have plenty of laborers here, but at the South they are not plenty, and they do need them, and there let them stay. Nobody proposes that the slave shall be made so very free that his freedom shall exceed that of the white vagabonds among us who are daily hauled up before our Courts and sent to the work house or chain gang where they can be of service to community and a little to themselves. Nobody claims that because they have a right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," that therefore their privileges when free are to exceed ours. When we make vagabonds of ourselves and can show no "visible means of support" society very properly takes us in hand and makes us useful. And so let it be with the slave. It will not be a direct advantage, perhaps, to have him set free in our midst, and that we do not seek, preferring to have him stay where he is needed; but if we must accept it through the necessities of the hour, it is simply and only because it is a lesser evil than is the continued existence of slavery, destructive as we find it is of morality, property and good government.
Ho, Statesmen! Christians! Rulers! Free and independent voters! Are you longer to gulled by this shallow bullying of political gamblers and old political backs, that you cannot unsuccessfully manage four millions of Negroes as do now the secession despots and tyrants of the South? Are you willing to suck your thumbs and see slavery survive this infamous war of its creation on the confession that your skill is inadequate to the task of doing as well by the slaves as have these secession traitors? Do you say that your government would break down in the task of sustaining order among them, of securing a just amount of labor from them, or that it could not possibly find the means to colonize as many as might be desirable? If so we pity your statesmanship, your wisdom and your confidence in your government. A high opinion you must cherish of Anglo-Saxon energy and sagacity.
Let the government go ahead — it need not fear to go too fast for the people now. It has but to will the settlement of this great question on the only true basis, and the whole North will say "Amen." True, some will "groan in the spirit and be troubled," for their trade of "carrying baggage and camp equipage" for their Southern masters will be forever gone, but they will groan all to themselves. At this very moment none condemn the action of the government on the "contraband" question so little openly as the nigger-hunting prints, partly because they dare not say much against it, and partly because with all their impudence and lying qualities they cannot make the old arguments plausible to the people. These men would like to sell out their country to treason if they could, but they must sustain the government or flee the country. Hence now is the time to meet this question. To say that we cannot betrays a weakness unworthy the character of an American citizen.